Early Preakness Picks

I know that the posts haven’t been drawn yet, but I’m going to have to give this an early try anyway. I’m pleased to report that I am leaving for a ten night cruise to Southern Italy and Greece tomorrow afternoon, so I won’t be able to complete a full analysis- it’s even possible that I won’t get to watch the race! That might be the only downside to this trip, which my wife and I have been anxiously awaiting for over six months now. At first glance, this Preakness looks even more interesting than the Derby. You have the top four finishers from the first Saturday in May, the best three-year-old filly to come along in over a decade (and maybe ever), speedy stakes winners that skipped the Derby and have been pointing to this, and, lest we forget, the forgotten favorite of the Derby. It’s going to be one of the strongest Preakness fields in recent memory, which is great to see after the absurdity of last year’s challengers to Big Brown. As briefly as possible, I’ll go over how I see the race shaping up.

As a preface, while I’ve gained a lot of respect for the Derby winner Mine That Bird and have made my apologies, I think he’s a strong play against here, even though I think he could go off as low as the fourth or fifth choice in the race (when was the last time that happened??) He isn’t likely to benefit from the shortened distance or the probable fast track, and suffice to say that if there’s ever been a bounce candidate, (2 weeks of rest off a 25 point Beyer jump) he is it.

Speedy newcomers BIG DRAMA and TAKE THE POINTS should battle for the lead early with the former getting the better of the latter, who should fade out of the picture fairly quickly after what I expect to be much faster fractions than we saw in the Derby. Directly behind, in perfect stalking position, I expect to see the trio of female monster RACHEL ALEXANDRA, injured but quickly recovered Derby favorite FRIESAN FIRE, and the very game PAPA CLEM. All three have great tactical speed and should be in great shape if they can rate off the pace a bit. Settling in behind, I’d again expect to see Derby runner-up PIONEER OF THE NILE closer than he probably should be, but he proved me very wrong in his impressive performance two weeks ago. MUSKET MAN will be saving ground in stalking position, and while he has continued to outrun his pedigree, you have to figure that this race will be asking a lot from him two weeks after a major over-achievement in the Derby.  GENERAL QUARTERS will fall back a bit behind into the next big flight along with some of my throwouts, which include FLYING PRIVATE, LUV GOV and TONE IT DOWN. I like the General the most of that group, although I still just don’t think he is fast enough, and he proved me right in the Derby, a race that was ripe for the taking for his running style and slop pedigree. Falling well behind the pace will be Derby winner MINE THAT BIRD and the underrated TERRAIN.

The big question here is how long BIG DRAMA will last. Given that he is unraced past 7f and only has one start this year, I don’t like his chances as much as some do, especially since his pedigree doesn’t scream “distance.” However, his speed is undeniable, and I expect him to lead most of the way but would be surprised if he isn’t overtaken by some of the more experienced stalkers. With smart races, RACHEL ALEXANDRA and FRIESAN FIRE should explode past him and have a lot left in the tank for the stretch. Keep in mind that the Oaks winner, while winning by over 20 lengths in a romp, wasn’t exactly overexerted against that weak field, and that the Derby fave was eased down the stretch after an impossibly bad trip. In both cases, these horses should be in great shape from a conditioning standpoint, inasmuch as that they shouldn’t be exhausted from having to come back after two weeks. PIONEER OF THE NILE should be right on their tails, but I still don’t think that he has the stretch kick to overtake horses that he isn’t already eyeballing, which he won’t be. With a likely hot pace, some horses will be tiring, and I expect PAPA CLEM and MUSKET MAN to be the prime candidates, with TERRAIN and MINE THAT BIRD flying down the stretch. The difference here in my opinion will be the fact that unlike the Derby, where the three horses at the front of the pack seemed to come to a virtual halt in the final furlong, I expect RACHEL ALEXANDRA to be flying, with FRIESAN FIRE right there, but probably missing the slop a bit and hating the extra hald a furlong a bit as well.

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Picks Summary:

  1. Rachel Alexandra
  2. Friesan Fire
  3. Pioneer of the Nile
  4. Big Drama
  5. Papa Clem
  6. Mine That Bird
  7. Musket Man
  8. Terrain
  9. General Quarters
  10. Luv Gov
  11. Flying Private
  12. Take the Points
  13. Tone It Down
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